Concussions not necessary for CTE to develop

Alarming new BU study shows impacts, not just concussions, lead to brain disease

A study published this week in Brain: a Journal of Neurology found repeated hits to the head, not just concussions, can lead chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a debilitating brain disease commonly associated with former professional football players. Injuries to the head result in focal disruption of capillaries, causing protein leakage into the brain. The first method was a postmortem examination of four teenage brains who played contact sports, while the other was observation of mice who showed abnormalities in brain function after suffering brain trauma that did not produce concussion symptoms-namely, nausea, dizziness or disorientation. Brains from four control-matched athletes without recent head injury did not show such pathology. This explains why around 20% of athletes who showed signs of CTE did not have a history of concussions. This included abnormal buildup of the tau protein and leaking blood vessels. Using animal models and computer modeling, Goldstein and his partners were able to see progression of the disease, finding that as tau built up, it began to work its way through the brain.

CTE has been found in the brains of teens and adults who sustained repeated head injuries, even in those who were not diagnosed with concussion, the study authors noted. The researchers found similar pathologies in both the mouse and human brains, regardless of the type of blast exposure they had experienced.

The researchers also conducted experiments that re-created sports-related head impacts on laboratory mice. In the deep recesses of the organ's folds, these damaged blood vessels were letting proteins spill into nearby brain tissue, triggering inflammation, they surmised. But the mechanisms behind CTE have been unclear. "Any meaningful prevention campaign has to focus on preventing all hits to the head, including sub-concussive impacts", said Goldstein. "[With] all of these people, we need to take the focus off concussion and find out if they have injured brains", Goldstein said, in an interview with NPR. Lee Goldstein, an associate professor of psychiatry at the Boston University School of Medicine and the lead investigator on the study.




"There is no direct correlation whatsoever", Goldstein said of concussions.

"I did not play tackle football until high school, I will not allow my grandson to play until 14, as I believe it is not an appropriate sport for young children", Carson said. According to researchers, in order to fully address and reduce the risk of CTE among athletes and veterans, a reduction of head impacts is needed, as focusing on concussions does not particularly address the root of the problem.

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